Story at a glance
- Los Angeles-based Carbon Capture Inc. and Texas-based Frontier Carbon Solutions announced earlier this month “Project Bison” will officially begin operations in Wyoming next year.
- The direct air capture facility will be made up of large arrays of modules about the size of 40-foot shipping containers equipped with “reactors” which essentially act as filters that absorb CO2 from the air.
- Once the filters are saturated, they are heated up and the carbon is extracted from the modules and pumped deep underground in saline aquifers for permanent storage.
A pair of climate tech companies is set to break ground on what will become the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project to help industries meet their net-zero goals and slow down the Earth’s rapidly warming climate.
Los Angeles-based Carbon Capture Inc. and Texas-based Frontier Carbon Solutions announced earlier this month “Project Bison” will officially begin operations in Wyoming next year to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where the greenhouse gas would have contributed to the heating of the planet.
The direct air capture facility will be made up of large arrays of modules about the size of 40-foot shipping containers equipped with “reactors,” which essentially act as filters that absorb CO2 from the air. Once the filters are saturated, they are heated up and the carbon is extracted from the modules and pumped deep underground in saline aquifers for permanent storage.
The first phase is scheduled for 2023 and 2024, and Carbon Capture Inc., which manufactures the modules, is expected to start removing about 12,000 tons of CO2 each year. This amount will scale up capacity to about 200,000 tons by 2026, and by 2030, operations will ramp up to remove 5 million tons of atmospheric CO2 each year, which amounts to roughly the emissions from 1 million gas-powered vehicles driven in a year.
Carbon capture and storage is now viewed as a key tool in mitigating the climate crisis as the technology has made great strides over the last decade, but so far there are a limited number of demonstration projects globally that are relatively small. The largest plant currently operating in the world, the Orca plant in Iceland, currently captures about 4,000 tons of carbon per year.
To meet the goals established under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Adrian Corless, CEO of Carbon Capture, estimated that 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide will need to be removed from the atmosphere annually by 2050. Human activity is responsible for releasing about 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
“The goal over the next 25 years is to cut emissions down by about 75 or 80 percent. I think the expectation to go beyond that gets very difficult because there are parts of our economy and industry that are really hard to fully decarbonize. And that’s why the recognition of carbon removal is required to take the last 25 percent or so of emissions out is now the general accepted outcome,” Corless said.
“So even with this project, we’re still in the early days of what needs to become an industry about as big as the oil and gas industry is today,” he added.
Corless explained how recent legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act, along with the growing number of large corporations setting net-zero emission goals and seeking high-quality carbon removal credits have opened the door to scale carbon capture to a viable business in the U.S. The company’s modular equipment also makes the technology easier to scale up.
The Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act significantly expanded tax credits for carbon removal projects. The credits increased from $50 a ton to $180 a ton. Last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated another $3.5 billion to establish four direct air capture hubs for large-scale CO2 removal.
Corless said the amount of research and development occurring nationwide into direct air capture has “completely exploded” compared to five to 10 years ago. He said essentially every research lab and university in one way or another is working on carbon removal, prompting a rapid evolution of core technologies.
“The U.S. has set out this roadmap for carbon removal that is long enough that it’s going to allow for the kinds of really large investments and capital investments in projects. The U.S. has done that. It’s not happening anywhere else right now,” Corless said.
The companies have not disclosed exactly where in Wyoming the project will be located, although the state was picked due to the “availability of renewable and zero carbon energy sources” and favorable regulatory environment for carbon storage.